- Paperback: 128 pages
- Publisher: Penguin; New Impression edition (3 Jan. 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140011307
- ISBN-13: 978-0140011302
- Product Dimensions: 11.3 x 0.9 x 18 cm
- Average Customer Review: 432 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,212,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Thirty-nine Steps Paperback – 3 Jan 1991
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Perhaps more than any other book "The Thirty-Nine Steps" has set the pattern for the story of the chase for a wanted man. And, of the many writers who have attempted this kind of thing since Buchan, only a very few, like Graham Greene, have managed to sustain the tension in the same way. The main character is Buchan's familiar hero, Richard Hannay who gets caught up quite suddenly on a dull London afternoon in a situation of extreme danger. Before he knows what is happening he is the obvious suspect for a murder committed in his own flat, and has to go on the run to his native Scotland.
About the Author
John Buchan (1875-1940) was born in Perth, Scotland and educated at Oxford where he published five books and won several awards, including one for poetry. He went on to be a barrister, a member of parliament, a soldier, a publisher, a historical biographer, and - in 1935 - he became the Govenor-General of Canada. Today he is best remembered as the author of his perennially popular adventure novels.
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39 steps is short and probably the best, at a good pace 4 stars
Greenmantle is situated in the first world war, nice adventure but probably not really believable, 4 stars
Mr Standfast was the least for me, a little bit slow and if you know who is the bad guy halfway, it's not that exciting anymore 4 stars
The Three Hostages the same, nice story and well thought but halfway you already know so would be better a bit shorter three stars
The Island of Sheep is second best, slow start but thrilling finale 4 stars
Written in 1915 as he convalesced, The Thirty Nine Steps was the first of what John Buchan called his `shockers', or adventure stories.
Set in the months preceding the outbreak of the first world war, the novel introduces us to Buchan's enduring hero, Richard Hannay. Coming home one night he finds a mysterious man on his doorstep asking for his help. Being an adventurer and recognising someonein true need he lets him in. This leads to a whole series of adventures as the mysterious man is murdered and Hannay finds himself on the run from the murderers (who fear what he knows) and the police. Buchan then writes a brilliant story of a cat and mouse chase across the highlands of Scotland, as Hannay fights to remain free of capture by either side, and tries to work out just what is at the heart of it all. That particular mystery leads him to a deep plot that strikes at the very security of the county, breathtaking in its magnitude.
It's a classic piece, and we really get to know (and like) Hannay. OK, so a lot of the time he has extraordinary luck as well as his wits (a room the villains lock him in just happens to contain a handy store of torches and explosives...) but the adventure is so full of charm, and the stakes so high and the story so exciting that you can forgive its few shortcomings. It's a classic, no, THE classic adventure story of one man on the run fighting against all the odds. 4 sequels were to follow featuring Hannay, and many authors attempted to copy the style, but no one ever really matched the verve, vigour and excitement of the original.
This abridged reading by James Fox is a decent affair. It's a long time since I read the actual book, and whatever cuts were made were not immediately obvious to me. The story flows along nicely. Fox has the perfect voice for the job, in fact after listening to this I feel that he would have made a good on screen Hannay. His plummy tones wrap themselves around Buchan's prose, and you really feel like you are in the company of the Edwardian adventurer relating his tale to some friends at his club. He has a good voice for audio books, able to distinguish between many characters with slight vocal inflections rather than having to resort to the vocal gymnastics and outrageous accents of lesser readers. The whole thing comes to 2 hours 15 minutes and they just flew by.
On two discs with no liner notes, the presentation is pretty basic. But the contents are excellent. 5 stars all round.
Considering these books were written by John Buchan as an experiment in writing simple “shockers,” the adventure thrillers of the time, these books hold up remarkably well. The writing is rich and detailed contrary to the expectations of such a series of books.
Buchan was writing the original books as the First World War was in progress and so at the time it was not known what the outcome of the conflict would be. This is reflected in his use of contemporary characters and events, some of which have since been somewhat forgotten or have become footnotes in modern historical texts. Greenmantle in particular I found to be a fascinating insight into the politics and conflicts outside of the Western Front as the adventures travels to the Near East and mentions a fair few events in Southern Africa, as Hannay goes undercover as a pro-German Boer.
The series loses a bit of momentum post-war but by then you’ll be hooked on Hannay’s adventures and want to follow them through to the end. I couldn’t recommend this series more, and in particular the Wordsworth Classics edition.
If you ignore the impausible coincidences, its a good story. One of those rare cases where the film is better than the book, (thinking of the 1959 Kenneth More version).
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Most recent customer reviews
A bit large the turn pages if u have arthritic hands, but mine are ok.